An agreement that allows thousands of companies to transfer data between Europe and the U.S. was ruled invalid by the highest EU court Tuesday, following all the revelations of U.S. government snooping.
The 14-year-old Safe Harbour agreement allowed companies to transfer data across the Atlantic with less restrictions and processing. The ruling from the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) will affect over 4,000 U.S. companies, including Facebook, Google and IBM, in their everyday operations.
“The EU’s highest court has pulled the rug under the feet of thousands of companies that have been relying on Safe Harbour,” said Monika Kuschewsky, special counsel at a Brussels based law firm, according to Reuters. “All these companies are now forced to find an alternative mechanism for their data transfers to the U.S.”
The case was originally picked up by the ECJ after a complaint from Austrian law student Max Schrems, who put forth allegations against Facebook’s transfers of information on European users to its American servers. The final ruling was further a result of revelations from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden about the Prism program, which allowed U.S. authorities to collect information on foreign individuals during transfers from major tech companies.
Some of the affected tech companies are now concerned about their operations, and they were quick to call for a new agreement.
“It is imperative that EU and US governments ensure that they continue to provide reliable methods for lawful data transfers and resolve any issues relating to national security,” a Facebook spokeswoman reportedly told the AFP over email.
EU officials agreed that a new deal needs to happen, but said alternative methods will work in the meantime.
“In the meantime, transatlantic data flows between companies can continue using other mechanisms for international transfers of personal data available under EU data protection law,” European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said after the ruling.
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